In this chapter, Paul tells about the importance of forgiving those that have wrong him and others in the church. He tells of a punishment that was carried out by the church body against the one that had sinned. Now that the individual had been fully punished it was time for forgiveness and restoration. Part of the restoration was to reaffirm the love that they had for the individual that had sinned and was punished.
“The punishment inflicted by the majority is sufficient for that person. As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, this one may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”
2 Corinthians 2:6-8 HCSB ( https://bible.com/bible/72/2co.2.6-8.HCSB )
This is an important part of church life. We have to hold each other accountable for the sins that we commit and punish accordingly. The punishment could be to not allow the individual to participate in the Lord’s Supper or ministry. In extreme cases, it could call for ex-communication for a while. What is important is that we don’t forget that we do these things out of love, and out of love after the time of punishment has passed the brother or sister should be restored and reaffirmed.
As with 1 Corinthians 5, this type of teaching is not popular among churches today. Most feel that any type of judgment for sinful behavior is un-Christlike, but Paul and John both talk about the importance of church discipline. This is to suggest that church discipline is an important part of a healthy church.
From here Paul turns his attention to the perception that people have of his ministry.
“For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.” 2 Corinthians 2:15-17 HCSB ( https://bible.com/bible/72/2co.2.15-17.HCSB )
He compares his ministry to the fragrance of Christ that some will smell like the aroma of death and others as the aroma of life. He makes it very clear that whichever aroma Paul’s ministry is to you it is still the fragrance of Christ. Those that are still dead in their sins and currently heading to hell; he is the aroma of death. In people’s rejection of salvation in Christ is found the aroma of death.
Some unbelievers accuse God of being unjust, needy, narcissistic, and even evil. They do not understand how a loving God could send people to hell. At the base of their understanding is found the problem. People like this believe that they are good, and not evil. While by God’s standards we are all evil, and nobody does good (Rom. 3:10-12). Their starting point in approaching God is all wrong. They have an overwhelming self-righteousness that has blinded them to their evil sinfulness and God’s righteousness. This is why Paul’s ministry, and everyone that preaches the gospel of Christ, is as the aroma of death.
To those who are being saved Paul, and all other faithful ministers of the gospel, are the aroma of life. It all has to do with the eternal perspective that you have. If you see yourself as a helpless sinner lost in sin and need of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ then it will be a sweet aroma leading to life. On the other hand, if you are dead in your sin and reject the gospel of Christ, it will stink of death for you because you are headed to the second death.
Paul also says that he does not market God’s message for profit like some others. Paul is not saying that a pastor doesn’t have a right to make a living and provide for their families by the ministry. I don’t even think that Paul would necessarily be against pastors that write books and sell them for a profit because you don’t nozzle an ox while it is treading the grain (1 Cor. 9:9). He would be against the prosperity gospel and tv evangelists that tell you to give and they will pray a blessing or healing on your life. They will do some type of miracle for exchange in an offering. This is more in line with what Paul is getting at. Although, there is a point where if a pastor has written several best-selling books and has enough money to care for his family that he should no longer take a salary from the church.
From this chapter, we need to remember that although church discipline is important, so is the next step of forgiveness and restoration. We should also strive to be the fragrance of Christ wherever we go; regardless of how it smells to those around us. We don’t need to try to change the smell to fit the audience. The audience will decide if the fragrance of Christ is the aroma of life or death.